With Labor Day Holiday coming up, many of us are planing to have barbecues. With summer cookouts comes mosquitoes. Ugh! A pierce to your skin, leaving behind an itchy red welt and possibly even a serious illness. As you swat madly at the pests, you notice that others seem completely unfazed. Could it be that mosquitoes prefer to bite some people over others?
According to WebMD, the short answer is yes. Mosquitoes do exhibit blood-sucking preferences, say the experts. “One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes,” reports Jerry Butler, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Florida. But it’s not dinner they’re sucking out of you. Female mosquitoes — males do not bite people — need human blood to develop fertile eggs. And apparently, not just anyone’s will do.
So I ask why do mosquitoes love us? Why do some of us get bitten more than others?
Although researchers have yet to pinpoint what mosquitoes consider an ideal hunk of human flesh, the hunt is on. “There’s a tremendous amount of research being conducted on what compounds and odors people exude that might be attractive to mosquitoes,” says Joe Conlon, PhD, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association. With 400 different compounds to examine, it’s an extremely laborious process. “Researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface,” he says.
Scientists do know that genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. They’ve also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skin’s surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer.
When men and women exercise, they exhale more carbon dioxide, but it is more than just that increase that entices mosquitoes. During a workout, the body temperature rises and lactic acid is omitted through sweat. Mosquitoes can detect the increase in body temperature, making people easy targets.
Pregnant women beware, you are more nearly twice as likely to get mosquito bites than you were before you were with child. Why? Mosquitoes are widely known to be attracted to carbon dioxide and pregnant women exhale over 20% more carbon dioxide than non-pregnant women. Larger people breath heavier therefore put out more carbon dioxide as well.
“People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitoes,” Butler tells WebMD. That doesn’t necessarily mean that mosquitoes prey on people with higher overall levels of cholesterol, Butler explains. These people simply may be more efficient at processing cholesterol, the byproducts of which remain on the skin’s surface.
Mosquitoes also target people who produce excess amounts of certain acids, such as uric acid, explains entomologist John Edman, PhD, spokesman for the Entomological Society of America. These substances can trigger mosquitoes’ sense of smell, luring them to land on unsuspecting victims.
A 2004 study found that mosquitoes too have their preferences, in the form of Type O blood. The majority of people produce a chemical signal that indicates which blood type they have. In the study, mosquitoes were twice as likely to land on those people with Type O blood and least likely to land on people with Type A blood.
A new article from the Smithsonian, however, is saying that those beer drinkers are more attractive to mosquitoes! A Smithsonian blog posted recently describes many factors that may make you more attractive to mosquitoes.
According to a 2002 study, just one bottle of your favorite beer may make you more attractive to mosquitoes. Researchers first thought the increase in mosquito attraction was due to higher sweat levels and skin temperature after consuming alcohol, but found that wasn’t the case. It looks like mosquitoes just want a sip of that refreshing drink too!
Scientists have been studying the factors that attract mosquitoes for years and there is always something new coming out. Despite all of the information that we have, there still isn’t a cure for mosquito bites beyond bug sprays and mosquito control, but it important to protect yourself if you spend time outside. Mosquito bites are not only annoying, but they can also be dangerous. Mosquitoes can transmit numerous diseases.
At Mosquito Squad, we tell our clients that the best way to avoid mosquito bites is to implement an Integrated Pest Management Solution, including professional mosquito control. As opposed to normal bug spray, mosquito control will eliminate 85-90% of mosquitoes on your property. You won’t see very many (if any) flying around you as you eat dinner or enjoy a game outdoors. Mosquito Squad targets the areas we know the pests like to feed and harbor, allowing you to enjoy your yard. Trust us, you’ll enjoy not having to spray your children down with bug spray before they go outside too!
If you have questions regarding mosquito control or our services, please reach out to your local Mosquito Squad office.